Friday, January 15, 2016

Pantry Dinners

Being a busy mom, there are definitely days when I suddenly realize that it’s 5 o’clock and I haven’t planned anything for dinner. Over the years, I’ve developed a collection of recipes for meals that consist entirely of items that I always (or nearly always) have on hand in my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. If you keep the following ingredients on hand, you can make any of the recipes below. Literally every single ingredient you need for every entrée below is on this list. (Well, okay, a couple of the recipes call for water, which is not listed. But other than that.) If you happen to have fresh items like onions, garlic, vegetables, or herbs on hand, feel free to substitute them, but pantry items work just as well.

Panko or bread crumbs
Instant potato flakes
Pasta (various shapes)
White rice
Brown sugar
Canned chicken
Canned diced tomatoes (plain or with herbs)
Canned kidney beans
Chicken broth (or chicken bouillon cubes)
Vegetable oil
Olive oil
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Instant onion
Poultry seasoning
Dried basil
Dried parsley
Dried oregano
Bay leaves
salt & pepper

Ground hamburger meat (I buy in bulk and freeze in roughly 1 to 1-1/2 pound portions; thaw in microwave on low for a few minutes at a time; pull off thawed portions and return remainder to microwave until completely thawed)
Chicken breasts (my grocery store often has “buy one, get one free” sales, so I use 1 package immediately and freeze the other; for any recipe that calls for cooked chicken, throw them in boiling water with some salt, pepper, garlic, and poultry seasoning and boil for 15-20 minutes, then allow water to cool without removing chicken – chicken will be fully cooked)
Boneless pork chops (quick thaw in running water or microwave on low power if needed and butterfly for faster cooking)
Chopped onion
Assorted vegetables (corn, peas, carrots, broccoli, green beans)
Puff pastry, crescent roll dough, or premade pie crust

Shredded cheese
Butter or margarine
Shredded Parmesan
Crumbled feta
Dijon mustard
Minced garlic


Juicy Meatloaf
1 egg
1-1/2 lb ground beef
½ c bread crumbs
2 tbsp frozen chopped onion
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tbsp catsup
1 c milk

Combine all ingredients. Bake in loaf pan at 350 for 1 hour.

Shepherd’s Pie (technically, this is Cottage Pie, being made with beef rather than lamb, but my family always called it Shepherd’s Pie)

1 lb. ground beef
2 cups frozen or (drained) canned corn
6 servings instant mashed potatoes
Shredded cheese (cheddar or your favorite blend)
Brown the ground beef, seasoning with salt and pepper. Drain fat and place beef in a deep casserole dish. Cover with corn and top with mashed potatoes. Sprinkle liberally with shredded cheese. Cover with foil and bake at 375 for 25 minutes; remove foil and return to oven for 5 minutes to melt and brown cheese.

Chicken Fried Rice
1 egg
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ cup frozen chopped onion
1 cup assorted frozen vegetables
2 cups cooked white rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup cooked, chopped chicken (use canned or parboil fresh or frozen chicken breasts)

In a small bowl, beat egg with water. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium low heat. Add egg and leave flat for 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from skillet and cut into shreds. Heat oil in same skillet; add onion and saute until soft. Add rice, soy sauce, pepper, and chicken. Stir fry together for about 5 minutes, then stir in egg. Serve hot.

Tomato Basil Pasta
10 oz dry pasta, any shape
6 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp minced garlic
1/3 cup frozen chopped onion
1 can tomatoes (with or without herbs), undrained
Dried basil, to taste (or 6 leaves fresh basil, torn or chiffonaded)
3 tbsp grated Parmesan
3/4 cup crumbled feta
Black pepper
Canned chicken, drained and broken up with fork (optional)

Cook pasta as directed and drain. Combine olive oil, garlic, onion, tomatoes and basil in a small bowl and set aside. Toss pasta with Parmesan and feta. Stir in tomato mixture and chicken (if using); add pepper to taste. Top with additional Parmesan if desired. Serve immediately or chill thoroughly and serve cold.

Panko Crusted Pork Chops

1/4 cup flour
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 cup panko
4 boneless pork chops, trimmed of fat (butterflied, optional)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup ketchup
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon brown sugar
salt and pepper

Place flour, egg, and panko in separate shallow bowls; season each with salt and pepper. Dip pork chops into flour and then egg, shaking off excess. Dip into panko, pressing to adhere. In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add pork, and cook until browned and cooked through, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together ketchup, Worcestershire, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper; season with salt, and stir to combine. Thinly slice pork chops crosswise and serve with sauce on the side.

Chicken Pot Pie 
1 package puff pastry, crescent roll dough, or ready-made pie crust
¼ cup butter
½ cup frozen chopped onion
¼ cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon poultry seasoning
salt and pepper , to taste
1 cup chicken broth (or reconstituted chicken bouillon)
¾ cup milk
2 ¾ cups cooked chicken, cut up (parboil frozen chicken breasts)
1 ½ cups frozen vegetables

Thaw pastry of choice according to package directions. Heat butter in large saucepan. Cook onion in butter until tender. Add flour and seasonings, mixing until smooth. Gradually stir in broth and milk. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture comes to a boil and is smooth and thickened. Stir in chicken and vegetables. Cool slightly. Spoon into large baking dish (or individual dishes). Place rolled out pastry on top and make slits for steam to escape. Bake on lower rack of oven at 375 until filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown, 30-35 minutes.

Mustard Panko Chicken
4-5 boneless chicken breasts, washed and patted dry (quick thaw in running water if needed)
¼ c butter, melted
2 tsp. minced garlic
¼ c Dijon mustard
½ c. panko or regular bread crumbs
3 tbsp. shredded Parmesan
1 tbsp dried parsley

Combine butter, garlic, and mustard and set aside. Mix panko, Parmesan, and parsley and set aside. Coat chicken in mustard sauce on both sides, dip tops only in crumbs to coat. Lay chicken in small baking pan, crumb side up, close together. Bake at 475 for 25 minutes.

Pasta e Fagioli Soup
2 cans diced tomatoes (with or without herbs), undrained
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
1 cup frozen chopped onion
1-1/2 tbsp minced garlic
½ tsp dried oregano
4 cups chicken broth
2 cans dark red kidney beans
2 bay leaves
1 cup uncooked pasta
salt and pepper
2 tsp dried parsley
shredded Parmesan (optional)

Heat olive oil and butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat until butter is melted. Reduce heat to medium and add onion, garlic, and oregano. Cook until soft, about 3 minutes. Add tomatoes, chicken broth, kidney beans, and bay leaves. Bring to boil then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, adding pasta for the last 5-10 minutes (according to package directions). Season to taste with salt and pepper; discard bay leaves. Stir in parsley and serve, drizzling with olive oil and sprinkling with Parmesan, if desired.


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